Rorate Caeli

Father de Tanoüarn, IBP: "It is Francis who contradicts communion. We are witnessing a rare case where the pope destroys communion."

 Father Guillaume de Tanoüarn, one of the priests who involved in the foundation of the Institute of the Good Shepherd (IBP), established by pontifical authority in the days of Pope Benedict XVI, is a well-known figure in conservative circles in France, and in Paris in particular, where his apostolate has been located for over a decade. He spoke to French website L'Incorrect on Francis' edict against the Latin Mass.

Were you surprised by the suddenness and severity of the measures enacted in the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes?

Yes, I didn't expect Pope Francis to hit so hard. Basically, this motu proprio is purely disciplinary, not doctrinal. It is a question of Pope Francis destroying the fruitfulness of the Ecclesia Dei institutes and derailing the movement that is going through the Church at the moment toward a coexistence of rites. It is now widely understood that the old rite can bring sacredness, transcendence and adoration, while the new rite has brought participation and proximity. Since 1988 and the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei of John Paul II, the Church has gradually become aware of the two rites’ complementarity.

I think that many young priests in parishes have practiced a mixture of the two, bringing their faithful a part of the verticality of the traditional rite. For my part, I insist that participation in the traditional rite is essential, and I believe it is very important for the future of the traditional rite to develop this reality.

We were in a peaceful situation, nothing like the conflicts of the 70s, 80s or even 90s. And suddenly, Pope Francis decides to dig up the old hatchet. His motu proprio is clearly written to achieve the extinction of the traditional rite. The most striking example - besides the fact that he refuses the erection of any new communities - is that priests ordained after this motu proprio will only be able to say the traditional Mass by asking permission from their bishop, who will himself have to ask Rome if it is appropriate. In other words, in the mind of the Pope, it will never be appropriate. It is in fact a disguised ban, and not very well disguised at that.

Do you understand the pontiff's grievance with traditionalists, that the traditional liturgy is being used to reject the Second Vatican Council?

I am strongly opposed to any fetishism of Vatican II, a fetishism has nothing to do with the theological infallibility of the Council itself. It was a pastoral council that took place during a time of extraordinary optimism. Today we are in a very different situation: a very dark period, extremely black. The optimism that made Vatican II is entirely forgotten. [Emphasis added] The Church would do well to adapt to the new social situation it is facing, notably the impoverishment of the so-called "rich" populations, the despair and the generalized loss of reference points. Not to mention the violence between religions, generated by the demands of radical Islam. Recourse to the universal virtue of Religion for a peaceful inter-religious dialogue (advocated by Vatican II) is no longer enough, especially at a time when we are discovering that religion to the sound of "Allah Akbar" can become a murderous vice.

It seems we prefer a Church with very few priests, but in which all forms of competition have been methodically destroyed.

We are in a completely different time from the 1970s. It is therefore natural that Catholics are looking for something other than Vatican II to cope with it. This does not constitute a condemnation of Vatican II per se. But this Council was the expression of another time, another era. And I fear that our aging pope does not adequately perceive the oldness of Vatican II.

The Pope writes that the behavior of the traditionalists "contradicts communion, feeding this impulse of division [...] It is in defense of the unity of the Body of Christ that I am compelled to revoke the faculty granted by my predecessors.” What do you think of this statement?

I think that it is he who contradicts communion. We are witnessing a rare case, envisaged by theologians, where the pope destroys an effort at communion, one that is in progress and which of course requires time and a genuine trust on all sides. And it is this trust that he destroys. That a pope can undo what his predecessor has done, with such ease, in two pages, poses a problem for the institution he leads and its reliability. Moreover, the Pope had declared during one of his frequent airplane conferences, to the journalist of La Croix Nicolas Senèze, that he was not afraid of schisms. This flies in the face of his task as a pastor, as a steward of unity. We can observe today that he is indeed not afraid of schisms, of cutting through, of separating, rather than uniting.

On a practical level, what will this change for the various communities?

First of all, the new assemblies will fall under the sole discretion of the local bishop. The institutes of pontifical right that were created to heal the wounds of the liturgical struggle of the 1970s will no longer have the right to erect new parishes, to create new structures, to grow. Extraordinarily, they no longer have the right to be the "leaven in the dough", as the Gospel prescribes to every Christian. In the long run, it is a question of suppressing these communities by first obtaining the extinction of seminary recruitment. In fact, without any new parishes, the young seminarians will have no other choice than to become the understudies of their elders.

What the current Church hierarchy does not understand is the steady recruitment of priests from within the tradition, encouraging when compared to the "new way" seminaries supposedly adapted to their time and place. So, not understanding this expansion, the pope is going all out in this motu proprio to destroy it, and penalizing the whole Church. Clearly, the preference is for a Church that is definitely poor in priests, but in which all forms of competition have been methodically destroyed.

Do you fear that the Holy See will not recognize the ordination of priests from traditional communities?

No, because theologically this is not possible. As much as there is an absolutist temptation in Francis, he cannot do absolutely anything with dogma. A bishop who receives the sacrament of the episcopate - as Vatican II made clear when it theorized the sacramentality of the episcopate - cannot have the ordinations he performs invalidated. The question of the validity of ordinations is therefore not at issue. But the goal is to prevent them, and above all to send a signal to young aspiring priests that if they choose the Ecclesia Dei institutes, they can look forward to an abortive ecclesiastical career. They will have no mission, no job. This is what we are already experiencing at the Good Shepherd Institute, since we are known as "the most wicked". The bishops do not "find" work for us, or literally refuse the work we bring.

What will happen to priests who are no longer allowed to celebrate Mass under the 1962 missal?

They will have no choice but to celebrate Mass under the new missal, unless they ask the Pope himself. This is nonsense from a doctrinal point of view, because the liturgy is essentially tradition. It is the law of prayer that determines the law of faith, not the other way around. But this law of prayer must not be issued by quickly assembled commissions of pseudo-experts or self-proclaimed experts, as Pope Benedict deplored. The liturgy is truly the place of tradition, not a battleground whereon what remains of the Christian army is hastily thrown together into a Church.